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Revisiting The Horror of Collier County with Rich Tommaso

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

This May sees the release of the 20th anniversary edition of The Horror of Collier County by Rich Tommaso. Dark Horse Comics is collecting the original five-issue series in a new remastered deluxe hardcover with a new cover and two bonus stories. I had a chance to speak with Tommaso about the project.

Escaping the stresses of city life, a young, single mom visits the hurricane state, only to find that Florida can be a pretty scary place--swamps, alligators, bugs the size of small cars, and zombies. With a weed-whacker for a weapon and the world against her, this punk-rock mommy will take down every monster in the state if need be. Is Florida really haunted by the undead, or is it just in her head?

James Ferguson: It's pretty standard now to look at Florida as a crazy place. Was that the case when The Horror of Collier County was first released twenty years ago?

Rich Tommaso: Well, specifically Naples, Florida (in Collier County), was a predominantly white, upper middle class, conservative place to live – as I imagine it still is today. Mostly retirement communities. My parents always had a knack for choosing the “safest” places to live whenever they moved us to a new town in the U.S. So, they did a great job once again in choosing the most boring place they could find in South Florida. For a sort of punker guy like me, in his twenties, it wasn’t thrilling or comfortable. Not that I was a thrill seeker in any way, I was pretty boring myself, but I did get the evil-eye from the local yokels everywhere I went. A friend and I acted out by shoving lewd “art” and “literature” in between books at local libraries and book shops. Silly and immature of us, I guess, but there you go.

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JF: Is it a weird feeling having a 20th anniversary of your work?

RT: It is. I did a 20th anniversary edition a few years back for my first graphic novel, Clover Honey, but let’s hope this book is met with more enthusiasm. I never thought I’d have anything reprinted in my lifetime, to be honest, so it’s exciting to have more than one of my past works see a very nice reprinting. To be very honest, I can’t stop looking at this Horror of Collier County book; it’s hands down the nicest book I’ve ever had printed. I’m more than happy about the entire production job on it. Also, this edition of Horror of Collier County with Dark Horse will be my first original book to be published in hardcover form. I’m also excited to have it appear in full-color and containing both sequels.

JF: What was the process like remastering the comic for this release?

RT: I rescanned all of the artwork for the sequels and had to entirely redo the coloring for the last story in the book, Don’t Look Back! The original coloring was just bathed in red and grey tones, so when I looked back at those again, I realized I was not happy with the results at all – don’t look back, I guess, huh? It actually didn’t take very long to do in the end. By the last week of work, I was probably coloring six to seven pages a day. Aside from that, everything else had to be colored for the first time and in the editing, a lot of pages from Horror of Collier County and King Blood were edited out of the book.

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JF: Can you tell me about the bonus stories included in this new hardcover release? 

RT: King Blood works as a very good origin story for all of the main characters in Horror of Collier County – especially for Vlad (or Alex), who doesn’t appear in Horror of Collier County but does have a major role in Don’t Look Back! – which was the first sequel but is placed after King Blood in this volume’s chronology. Initially, I produced King Blood so that people didn’t have to hunt down and read Cannibal Porn – my very first published series, released by EROS Comix in 1993. Not a series I’d want to re-release, not so much for its sexual content, but more for the fact that I don’t like the art in it.

Don’t Look Back! works very well as a wrap-up to everything in the volume – it has a solid ending – and again, King Blood is meant to be an origin, so it doesn’t really have an ending per se, more of a “...” to it. King Blood was also edited to function better as an origin story. I edited out two pages from the very start and the five pages from the end of the book, which ties everything back in to Horror of Collier County and Don’t Look Back! It was sad to lose those last five pages – where Fran and Vlad are involved in a demonic divorce court proceeding – but there were two problems within those pages, one being that it leaves Vlad in a time and place that comes after the Don’t Look Back! timeline – if that makes sense. The second is that it draws a very clear line as to what really happened to Fran when she believed she was being stalked by her neighbors down in Collier County. And I’m not sure that I want to draw such a clear line on that point just now.

Horror DNA would like to thank Rich Tommaso for taking the time to speak with us today. The Horror of Collier County (20th anniversary edition) is set for release on May 8th, 2019.

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About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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